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Scientists are proposing reintroducing large mammals such as elephants, lions, cheetahs and wild horses to North America to replace populations lost 13,000 years ago.
The scientists say that not only could large tracts of North America act as breeding sanctuaries for species of large wild animals under threat in Africa and Asia, but that such ecological history parks could be major tourist attractions.
"Africa and parts of Asia are now the only places where megafauna are relatively intact, and the loss of many of these species within this century seems likely," the team, led by Josh Donlan from New York's Cornell University, said.
"Given this risk of further extinction, re-wilding of North American sites carries global conservation implications," the team wrote in Wednesday's issue of the science journal Nature.
"Free-roaming, managed cheetahs in the southwestern United States could save the fastest carnivore from extinction, restore what must have been strong interactions with pronghorn and facilitate ecotourism as an alternative for ranchers.
"Managed elephant populations could similarly benefit ranchers through grassland maintenance and ecotourism," they wrote, adding that reintroducing lions would represent the pinnacle of the Pleistocene re-wilding of North America.